Although the deferred action program only provides temporary protection for certain undocumented youth, it is a great benefit that should not be missed. In my column in La Opinión this week, I explain why you should request deferred action if you are eligible.
After a very slow start, the processing of requests for deferred action for undocumented youth has accelerated. More than 4,500 cases have already been approved since applications began to be accepted on August 15 of this year. It is estimated that more than 1 million people could be eligible for this temporary relief, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that they have only received approximately 180,000 applications.
When the deadline for submitting applications opened, I advised them not to rush because they should first seek legal advice. It is important to make sure that they are eligible for deferred action and that there is nothing in their past that could jeopardize the process or their stay in the country. But also don't wait too long to start the process.
If they are eligible, it is better to have temporary protection from deportation than nothing at all. In addition, if they are approved and demonstrate financial need, they will be able to get a work permit. This will allow them to apply for social security and a driver's license.
Remember, the eligibility requirements are: have arrived in the U.S. before your 16th birthday; not have been over the age of 30 on June 15, 2012; have lived continuously in the U.S. for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012 and be currently present in the country; have entered without inspection prior to June 15, 2012 or your lawful immigration status expired on June 15, 2012; be a high school graduate or in high school, including GED; be a veteran of the armed forces; not pose a threat to national security or public safety; not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or multiple felonies.
Not all young people who entered the U.S. illegally as minors will be eligible. Cases that seem easy may have complications. It's not just about filling out a form. An attorney can evaluate case histories and determine legal options, including eligibility for deferred action and permanent residency.
Do not go to notaries or immigration consultants. They are prohibited by law from giving legal advice. Consult with an immigration attorney or a government-accredited legal representative before beginning the process. Make sure they have a valid license before hiring them.
The following links lead to notes that provide more information on deferred action:
Clarifications on eligibility and important deferred action data
Why you should not be afraid to request deferred action
What documents do you need to demonstrate eligibility for deferred action?
What could happen if you lie on your deferred action request?
Why you should use an attorney to file for deferred action
How to obtain social security number and driver's license after receiving deferred action